Put an end to low carb diet stalls
Weight loss rarely occurs at a steady rate. Stabilizing at certain weights for a while can be normal for your body but there are ways to jump-start a low carb diet plan that has stopped working for you.
Is it really a stall?To determine if you are maintaining, losing or actually stalling, compare your average weekly weights. (Women: Don't bother stressing over your weight during the 10 days surrounding your menstrual cycle.) Daily weight can fluctuate by several pounds due to such variables as salt intake and water retention. Weighing in weekly is a better way to determine actual progress.
If you are exercising regularly, you may be building muscle tissue! Muscle tissue is more dense than fat, so while it may make you heavier, it takes up a whole lot less space (and looks a lot better on you).
low carb dieters commonly lose inches even when the scale doesn't move, and sometimes the most noticeable changes are in their clothing sizes. If you must obsess over numbers, focus more on body fat percentage and clothing size than on actual number of pounds lost. (The book Protein Power, by doctors Michael and Mary Dan Eades, contains an easy and accurate formula to determine body fat percentage.)
If you haven't lost weight or inches for more than four weeks, are exercising and are not yet at your goal, then, yes, you very well may have entered a dreaded diet "plateau" or "stall."
It's really a stall. Now what?1. Examine carefully everything you are eating and drinking. What stalls one person may not hinder the next. Try removing a potential offending food or drink from your diet for a full week or two to see if it could be the culprit. (You'll find ideas for an elimination strategy later in this article.)
2. Change proportions. Try lowering carbs, raising carbs (Surprise! Sometimes eating too few carbs can cause metabolic slowdowns!), upping fat or increasing fiber.
3. Calculate and track your average intake of calories, fat, carbs and protein. Many software programs are available that will do this for you. Additionally, many websites feature this capability, some for free. Or, you can keep a simple written food diary and use a carb or calorie counter. Eating too many calories can interfere with any weight loss plan as can eating too few, which throws your body into starvation mode and slow metabolism. The trick is knowing what's going into your body.
4. If you're not overeating but are still not losing, go back to the strictest initial phase of your eating plan for a couple of weeks. (With Atkins, for instance, that's 20g carbs per day maximum.) On Atkins or a similar diet, make sure your fat percentage is high -- the initial, or corrective, phase of the Atkins diet is technically high-fat, not high-protein. Make sure your protein intake is not too high -- studies suggest that up to 52 percent of ingested protein can be converted to glucose (and then fat). Do make sure to eat enough protein to protect muscle mass. (The minimum amount depends on your body frame, current weight and activity level.)
Likely suspects: An elimination strategyJust the taste of sweetness is thought to cause an insulin spike in very sensitive people. Sugar alcohols (polyols such as malitol, erythritol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.) are, in my experience, the single biggest cause of stalls in low carb dieters. This is the very first thing I recommend eliminating from your diet if you are having trouble losing weight. Try restricting yourself to homemade treats or those sweetened with sucralose.
Some people (including me) lose well when sticking to sucralose-sweetened treats, but stall or even gain with other artificial sweeteners.
If you are indulging in anything with the real stuff in it, give it up. This includes sucrose, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice and any other moniker that manufacturers use to disguise this ingredient. Read every label.
Too much? I ate fruit only rarely until I reached maintenance. Try giving it up for a while if you are in a stall.
Enough? Ensure that you are eating at least three cups of vegetables per day. The brighter in color they are, the more antioxidants and other good-for-you elements they tend to contain, so reach for the brightly colored lower-carb varieties and eat up! These are the "good carbs," and omitting them from any diet plan is not recommended.
Too few? If you have been keeping your calories low for a while and it's not working -- you might not be eating enough! low carb plans are more about quality of food than quantity.
Present in many foods (including most diet sodas) and supplements this ingredient can stall some people.
Macadamias, almonds, walnuts and sunflower and pumpkin kernels can be healthy snacks, but limit quantities -- no more than a quarter- to a half-cup per day as a rule of thumb. Avoid peanuts and cashews entirely -- these actually are not nuts, but legumes.
Think of your metabolism as a furnace containing a small fire. You must maintain a steady burn; if you let the fire go out, restarting it takes a lot of effort. If you smother it by eating too much food at one time, the same problem occurs. Try to eat lots of smaller meals and snacks -- and don't forget breakfast!
Eating salty foods may cause a temporary and sudden gain of several water pounds.
Exercise is essential for weight lossExercise is necessary for both weight loss and long-term health. Yes, you can lose many pounds without exercising at all. But if you want to look good when you re done losing, you had better make some effort to tone your muscles! Your skin is much more likely to shrink back into shape when you lose weight in combination with exercise.
Exercise is as addicting as anything else, and much more rewarding. Find something that you enjoy (or at least don't hate doing), even if it's just walking, and incorporate it into your life. As your weight decreases and your health improves, you can increase intensity and change your workouts. The most important thing right now is to establish a routine.
Supplements are important
Tracking your intake
Be sure to try our searchable Carb Counter at www.LowCarbEnergy.com, where you'll find full nutritional analyses of common foods, all based on the USDA's database.
The web is a great place to find tools for calculating and tracking the composition of your diet. A few we like:
Generally, a multivitamin that includes potassium, calcium and magnesium is ideal; they work together to prevent muscle aches/cramps and pulse or blood pressure irregularities that often occur at the beginning of a low carb regimen. Women of childbearing age should also look for a multivitamin that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid.
Be diligentSome of us have to work harder and sacrifice more, and we still lose weight at a much slower rate than many others. It's not fair, but life seldom is. Fortunately, the greatly improved health and high energy that a low carb lifestyle brings should make seemingly-slow weight loss an acceptable tradeoff.
Keys to jump starting and maintaining your low carb lifestyle:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Citric acid
- Nuts and seeds
- Don't forget to eat